My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The word ‘seminal’ is derived from the Latin semina, meaning ‘seed’. Muhammad Iqbal’s Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam is rightly considered to be a seminal text because it has been, in many ways, like a seed that has flourished and grown in unexpected ways.
Iqbal’s philosophy of the self/ego is a valuable body of thought regarding the fundamental question, what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be a person? While this facet of his work in the Reconstruction has not received as much attention as some of his notes regarding the nature of an Islamic society, it is incontrovertible that his vision for the Muslim society flowed directly and logically from his vision and philosophy of selfhood.
The Reconstruction, published first in 1930, is considered by some to be the key work of Islamic philosophy of the twentieth century. The value of the work is not in that every point the author argues is correct, for it is unlikely to find a scholar today who agrees with all of Iqbal’s opinions. Rather, the value and power of the work is in its spirit—one that inquires far and wide, searching historical sources and the knowledge of philosophers and scientists from the West as well as the East, with the conviction that there is something to be learned in all of these sources.
A third valuable facet of this work is Iqbal’s refusal to sink into a mentality of victimhood or fatalism which even today can be easily found in many Muslim communities. Iqbal’s vision of the self and the Supreme Ego (God) dictated that destiny was more a matter of vocation and calling, and then having the faith and power to fulfil that calling, rather than the idea that all ill-fortune had been preordained by an omniscient deity, and thus human agency was meaningless.
In our days there are few questions more important than that of Islam and modernity. Iqbal proposed a vision for a progressive Muslim society that so far appears to have failed in Pakistan and Iran. As long as there are people seeking to realize such a vision for Muslim society, Iqbal will remain important.